Christchurch latest victim of Turkey’s bid for leadership in Muslim world - analyst
Ankara’s efforts for leadership in the Muslim world stop at nothing, including using a massacre targeting Muslims in New Zealand, to plant Turkey’s flag in a global effort to expand beyond the Turkic and former Ottoman world, wrote James M.Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, in an article he penned for Modern Diplomacy.
This weekend’s visit by Turkish vice-president Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu, the first high-level foreign government delegation to travel to Christchurch, was intended as more than an expression of solidarity with New Zealand’s grieving Muslim community, which lost 50 people after a gunman opened fire in two different mosques in an attack that was live-streamed by the perpetrator.
Turkey’s strongman showed footage of the attack, which was quickly removed from social media sites and banned by New Zealand, stating “there is a benefit in watching this on the screen.”
“We have been here for 1,000 years and God willing we will be until doomsday. You will not be able to make Istanbul Constantinople. Your ancestors came and saw that we were here. Some of them returned on foot and some returned in coffins. If you come with the same intent, we will be waiting for you, too,” Dorsey quoted Erdoğan as saying.
The Turkish president was responding to an assertion by Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist perpetrator of the Christchurch attacks, that Turks were “ethnic soldiers currently occupying Europe.”
Erdoğan’s words are part of a campaign aiming ‘’to establish Turkey as a leader of the Muslim world in competition with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser degree Morocco,’’ Dorsey wrote.
Ankara continues to position itself as a cheerleader for Muslim causes, he stressed, pointing to Jerusalem and the Rohingya Muslims, to which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Muslim nations are taking a step back.
Ankara has also spoken out against China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims in the country’s northwestern province of Xinjiang, he added.
As Turkey continues to ‘’build grand mosques and/or cultural centres across the globe in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia, finance religious education and restore Ottoman heritage sites,’’ Dorsey wrote, it also pressures governments in Africa and Asia to ‘’hand over schools operated by the Hizmet movement led by exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen,’’ who Ankara holds responsible for the failed military coup in Turkey in 2016.
Ankara has in recent years opened ‘’at least 26 embassies in Africa, expanded the Turkish Airlines network to 55 destinations in Africa, established military bases in Somalia and Qatar, and negotiated a long-term lease for Sudan’s Suakin Island in the Red Sea,’’ the article recalled.
Turkey competes geopolitically with the Saudi Arabia, which has left its imprint on the global Muslim community, and the UAE in the Horn of Africa, Libya and Syria, Dorsey stressed.
The UAE, which projects itself and its religiosity as far more modern and tolerant, presents a different obstacle for Turkey than Saudi Arabia, whose ultra-conservative interpretation of the fait known as Wahhabism is running its course, the article noted.